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Hartford criminal defense attorney for weapons offensesGun control has been a topic of immense concern and debate over the past few years. Due to the number of high-profile incidents of gun-related violence that have occurred throughout the U.S., state lawmakers have begun to consider implementing measures meant to prevent some of that violence. Connecticut was the first state in the nation to pass a “red flag” law in 1999 after a disgruntled worker at the Connecticut Lottery Corp. used a pistol and a knife to murder four employees before shooting himself. Since the law was passed, however, no changes have been made to it, prompting some to argue that the law has not kept up with modern times. To avoid facing potential criminal charges, gun owners should be sure to understand this law and how any potential changes could affect them.

What Are “Red Flag” Laws?

A total of 16 states and the District of Columbia have followed in Connecticut’s footsteps in implementing “red flag” laws, which are laws that take a preemptive approach to gun safety. Under these laws, anyone who is concerned that another person presents a danger to themselves or others can ask the court to temporarily remove that person’s firearms from their home or possession. In many cases, people come forward if they are concerned about suicidal thoughts expressed by a loved one, or they may ask the court to take action if a person has talked or joked about shooting someone.

The judge will determine whether or not the person is actually a threat to the safety of themselves or others and make a decision accordingly. If the judge approves the request, a court order known as a “risk warrant” will be issued, requiring the person to surrender their firearms for a specific period of time.

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gun, Connecticut weapons charges lawyerA former Connecticut police officer was sitting at home minding his own business when five state troopers arrived with a warrant to seize all of his legally-owned firearms. The 76-year-old man had committed no crime, had no history of violence, was not under arrest, and was not being charged, but the state police still seized more than 80 guns from the man’s home pursuant to a Firearm Safety Warrant. Connecticut is one of just five states to allow this type of controversial warrant, though many more are considering them in light of recent tragedies involving gun violence.

Firearm Safety Warrants

In 1999, the Connecticut Legislature passed what lawmakers called “risk warrant” legislation. The law allows courts to issue firearm seizure warrants based on reports from the general public that a person (gun owner) poses an immediate threat of personal injury to themselves or others. The subject of such a warrant does not need to have broken any laws in order for the seizure to be conducted. The police can hold seized firearms for up to two weeks while a hearing is scheduled. At the hearing, a judge then determines the status of the guns. Some are returned to the owner immediately, others are held for up to one year, and a small number are forfeited and sold or destroyed.

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